Taslima Nasreen, ‘Duhsahobas,’ and a TV cancellation

© Awrup Sanyal

“Taslima’s misery somehow leads us to the crossroad where an imminent change of path is indispensable. The consolidation of secular liberal voices in the subcontinent who would vociferate not against the chauvinism of religious majority of a nation but against all the extreme elements of any religion across the border and battle for the absolute separation of ‘church and state’ is the demand of the hour. Are we up for it?”

Taslima Nasreen’s Duhsahobas

by Pratik Deb for AlalODulal.org

A Bengali soap opera named Duhsahobas, scripted by Taslima Nasreen, has recently been cancelled from being aired, thanks to the ever-indulgent policy of West Bengal government towards the religious conservatives. The soap Opera, depicting the story of three sisters and their struggle to cope within the patriarchal society of sub-continent, was scheduled to be aired from Aakash Aat, a local Bengali television channel and as soon as the trailer of the serial started to be broadcasted, the government officials took notice: leading to ‘unofficial’ yet definitive steps to ensure that the serial would not see the light of the day. The serial has, apparently, nothing to do with any religious orders and yet it did not fail to generate ire from some conservative Muslim leaders of the city leading to a few demonstrations demanding, as always, punishment and ouster for Taslima.

While different government officials, from police commissioner to ministers from Mamata Banerjee cabinet, have openly divulged their interference with the proceedings of the private channel to ensure that Duhsahobas does not get aired, it is rather conspicuous how the civil society remained silent on the issue. In a way, this silence was not surprising, but rather repetitive, reminding us of the ordeal Taslima had to face in 2007 that led to her departure from our city.

In the wake of Singur-Nandygram movement, when a definitive, independent and somewhat strident voice of civil society started to emerge in the scenes of Kolkata, the Kolkata based politics started to see a ray of hope: that an independent rational discourse might be introduced into otherwise rabidly partisan political panorama of West Bengal. This prospect dimmed for a while when in 2007, the infamous riot in the streets of Kolkata broke out. In her autobiography, banned by the ‘secular govt. of West Bengal’, Taslima had supposedly hurt the religious feelings that led to an earlier issuance of death warrant from an obscure Hyderabad based Islamist organization. Almost in an unexpected way that led to such rioting in the streets of Kolkata led by a never-heard-of entity called All India Minority Forum that army was to be called to restore order. This unprecedented incidence, however, failed to invoke even a lukewarm response from the ‘Biddatjans’ of Kolkata. The civil society again refused to speak up when the verdict was passed that Taslima has to leave the city for good and the city of joy witnessed its soul being offered to religious leaders who can only wind up people for their political gains.

Seven years down the road, we see the new regime, taking almost identical measures in order to secure ‘Muslim votes’ with the age old assumption of Indian politics that they can only represented by the most violent outliers, and is not concerned about economic or other socially relevant issues. This somewhat invokes a sense of déjà vu for us, as if the clockwork of Indian politics is set to repeat its own mistakes over and over again.

Scene from the planned serial. Source: indiatvnews.com

Scene from the planned serial. Source: indiatvnews.com

But apart from the political game, played by the myopic political parties, sensationalist mass-media and a few self-appointed guardians of religion; there is another implicit concern amid the liberals of India who would not voice out against conservative Islamists: the fear of a knee jerk reaction on the part of the Hindu majority who would took no time to stereotype Islam, and how the answer to the call for a “Islamic theocracy” is establishment of a Hindu theocracy.

The fear of the rise of fundamentalist among ourselves, the fear of sounding like and eventually being bunched with the Hindu right-wing politics, often keeps us from voicing the proper response. But we must remember how the infringement of free speech begins with such an innocuous incident followed by the silence of those whose voices do matter. And we must remind ourselves where that ends: with its omnivorous demand of appropriation of everything and anything on its path until not a single voice of dissent remains on its way.

Taslima’s misery somehow leads us to the crossroad where an imminent change of path is indispensable. The consolidation of secular liberal voices in the subcontinent who would vociferate not against the chauvinism of religious majority of a nation, but against all the extreme elements of any religion, and battle for the absolute separation of ‘church and state’ is the demand of the hour.

Are we up for it?

2 thoughts on “Taslima Nasreen, ‘Duhsahobas,’ and a TV cancellation

  1. What an utterly laughable, vacuous, patronising, self-righteous rant, transforming that execrable, old bigot Taslima Nasreen into a martyr of “free speech”. Judging by this screed, all that “secularism” and atheism in West Bengal hasn’t done much to mitigate the traditional Hindu feudal hostility to Muslims.

    “The consolidation of secular liberal voices in the subcontinent who would vociferate not against the chauvinism of religious majority of a nation, but against all the extreme elements of any religion”, Really? What about the extreme elements in “secularism” or do they not exist according to the author? Take Taslima Nasreen and her recent anti-Muslim pronouncements. Do they seem extreme or is anything said against the absolute eviiiilness of Islam okay? Only religions (specifically Islam) can be extreme eh? Nothing extreme either in the various Communist parties eventual goal of “state atheism”, after all that worked out fine for religious people in the Soviet Union, China, Albania, Cambodia etc.

    The willingness of so-called “secular liberal voices” to openly support butchery of those they have already demonized as “Islamists”, “Fundamentalists” etc, (Nasreen herself is a prime example) as seen in Egypt and more recently in Bangladesh last May, means that we need something that contains their virulent extremism. But then again self reflection has never been their strong point.
    Take “secular” Indian activists who are always loudly lining up in favour Anti-Muslim morons like Nasreen, supposedly only in the name of “secularism” and without any ulterior motives, while speaking in a much softer voice when their own “secular” government and “secular” political parties regularly indulge in the mass slaughter and rape of religious minorities. Oh I guess since the minorities were likely to protest against the likes of Nasreen, they don’t deserve much more than to be patronizingly lectured about “free speech”.

    Don’t they know that “free speech” means an inalienable right for private and state owned media to be obliged to air your works, while it is against “free speech” to complain or protest in any way against “eminent secularist” voices like Nasreen? Stupid, backward, minorities. If only they could be as enlightened as our “secular liberal voices”. Oh well, say hi to your next “secular” Prime Minister Modi from me. Now there’s a man with bagfuls of respect for the likes of Nasreen.

    • Defending someone’s right to free speech is not equivalent to sharing their opinion. Is that so hard to understand? To defend the right to free speech of someone like Taslima or even David Irving doesn’t mean the writer has to share their world-view, this is the basic tenet of free speech. I don’t know how much more condescending I should be to get that into your head.
      “Take “secular” Indian activists who are always loudly lining up in favour Anti-Muslim morons like Nasreen, supposedly only in the name of “secularism” and without any ulterior motives,” the entire article was about the absence of this lining up, the lack of support for Taslima, but alas, the responder was too irate and too thick to understand that.
      Voicing out for free speech does not mean denial of imperialism or Indian expansionism or geo-political nuances, neither does it endorse any Islamophobic rhetoric. The insinuation that in itself it is extension of an anti-religious expansionist ideologue, is fatuous beyond any measure.
      And about Modi, well, let me get this straight, the people slaughtered in 2001 Gujrat or 2013 Mujjafarnagar or Bangladesh, would they only be considered as the statistics for any certain religion? Would the minority of Bangladesh (reducing from around 22% to 8% in last forty years) or the minorities of India only be considered as minorities? What do we have to do to make bigots and zealots like you or your mirror image, the likes of Modi, to consider them as human beings and their human right to live? Now here’s a right you might be interested in.

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